Episode 57: Is Genetic Analysis Really Worth It?

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Thanks for joining us for episode 57 of The Ancestral RD podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show!

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“Hi Laura and Kelsey, thank you for your wonderful podcast. My question is about genetic analysis like 23andMe. Just as someone can become orthorexic, I feel like many of us can become overly obsessive and anxious about our genetic mutations and the potential higher risk for conditions we find out about in the process.Where do you feel like the appropriate line to draw is when it comes to analyzing your genetic testing? How much do you think these SNPs actually determine our likelihood for certain conditions whether it be more immediate concern like miscarriage, blood clotting problems, allergies, or potential concerns down the line like cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc. Thanks.”

While the ability to get a picture of your genes is an exciting prospect, the appropriate applications for the data provided by genetic analysis are not completely understood. Along with the information comes knowledge that can be a source of anxiety that outweighs potential benefits.

Just how much information do you really get from these tests and to what extent is the data useful? While some see the data as a predictor of disease and a basis for making major diet and lifestyle changes, the evidence to support this practice is questionable.

Join us today as we discuss the potential benefits, limitations, and even drawbacks associated with genetic analysis.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • A definition of SNP
  • How most of the genome information is based on correlative evidence
  • The potential uses and limitations of genetic analysis
  • Why having an amount of increased risk of a certain disease does not guarantee that you will get that disease
  • Why the stress caused by anxiety over results can outweigh potential benefit from knowledge uncovered
  • How anxiety of the future is a major contributor of orthorexic behavior
  • The questionable efficacy of using the data to support making major changes to diet and lifestyle in an attempt to prevent a potential disease
  • How being aware of the present and optimizing current state of health is a more beneficial strategy than making modifications with unknown effects in an attempt to prevent a future event
  • The essential question to ask yourself before any lab test

Links Discussed:

  • KettleAndFire.com – Use the code AncestralRDs for a 15% discount off your first order of Kettle and Fire bone broth!


Laura: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 57 of the Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and with me as always is Kelsey Marksteiner.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: How are you doing lately, Kelsey?

Kelsey: Oh man. I’ve been stressed out lately with the whole apartment thing. We’re sort of at the end of the road with it now, but that comes with its own stressors. You always think like, oh gosh, if only this one thing will work out, then everything will be fine from there. Then you forgot that it’s like a whole process of moving and all this other stuff. So we’re sort of almost at that point right now.

Laura: Sort of almost?

Kelsey: Sort of almost, yeah. We’re getting there is the best way I can put it. We just tried to really take it easy on Saturday because we’ve had a lot of stressors come up, that included with some other things. Especially being in a relationship, when there’s a lot of things going on you sort of can get pulled apart fairly easily, or not pulled apart I guess I should say, but like you’re both doing your own thing and you don’t really connect as much if you’re so busy with all this other stuff. So we were like let’s just spend Saturday cuddling on the couch, and just watching TV, and just being together, and not worrying about all of this stuff going on in our lives.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: That was super relaxing and very much needed at that point to kind of get the energy again to start this week fresh and feel like we can really take on everything that’s happening.

Laura: Ready to deal with all the added stress that comes from moving past other stress.

Kelsey: Yes, exactly right.

Laura: Yeah, moving is the worst. I feel like I’m really glad that I’ve been where I live for a couple years and hopefully don’t intend on moving anytime soon because moving is probably is one of the most stressful things ever.

Kelsey: Yeah I think they say it’s one of the top three life stressors is moving. I buy it.

Laura: Well it’s weird. I feel like people nowadays move so much more frequently than they would have in the past. And I’ve worked with a lot of clients who come to me with health issues and we’re trying to figure out what kind of kicked off the major health issue. And a lot of times they’re like well, I had a big move and blah, blah, blah. And I’m like oh gosh, moving just, I don’t know…

Kelsey: It takes it out of you. It really does.

Laura: Yeah. I don’t know if there’s any way to do it that’s not stressful, you know?

Kelsey: Yeah. Well at least this time we’re thinking of hiring movers, which actually we’ve never done so far, which is crazy to me now that I’m thinking about it.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: We’ve always had family come and help and it takes the entire day of course. When we moved into our current apartment, I got sun poisoning or something. I had a fever after we were done because I was so over heated.

Laura: Oh my gosh.

Kelsey: Yeah it was really bad.

Laura: Yeah, definitely hire somebody.

Kelsey: Yeah. That seems to be like a priority this time.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: We’re like we just can’t. We’re not old, but I feel too old for this.

Laura: I mean honestly, I had a moving company help me with my current place when I moved in. I think they were done in like less than an hour getting everything into the house.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: At least where it needed to go. Obviously I had to unpack the boxes, but they brought all the furniture in, and I’m like never going to move myself ever again.

Kelsey: Yeah, that sounds well worth it.

Laura: Yeah. I mean in the long run it’s like whatever, I think it cost me 500, 600 bucks or something.

Kelsey: Oh that’s really good.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: That’s not bad. Worth it.

Laura: Well even if it was more, I think it would still be worth it just because of the hours of stress and potential injury of bringing furniture up and down stairs. And it’s just, I don’t know. There’s just no way that I’m ever going to move myself again.

Kelsey: Yeah. Fair enough. Hopefully again, this will be the last time we move for a while. But yeah, I think it’s definitely worth it to take off that piece of added stress by hiring movers for sure.

Laura: Yeah. It’s funny, I actually posted something on Instagram I guess it was yesterday actually about rest and taking rest seriously. Because for me, I’ve been going through some stressful life changes in the last couple weeks myself, which I will not necessarily give details on right now. But as far as just dealing with changes in my appetite, or my ability to sleep, or just having things on my mind that can cause anxiety, it’s just been almost nonstop for the last month essentially.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like I‘ll have these little periods of not being stressed, and I’ll be like everything’s amazing! And I’m like my workouts are awesome and everything is great, and then it doesn’t last very long.

But it was just funny because yesterday there was like a series of events that caused me to really have an uptake in my anxiety symptoms. I don’t have clinical anxiety, but I’m definitely sensitive to stress and I get physical anxiety symptoms pretty regularly, easily I should say. I generally what I have to do to keep them under control, but yesterday I just kind of screwed up everything.

Kelsey: Oops.

Laura: The first thing that happened was I live downtown Raleigh and there’s this bar kind of near my house that occasionally will have people drunk fighting in the parking by my place.

Kelsey: Oh boy.

Laura: It’s not that often, but Saturday night there was that so I got woken up at 2:00 in the morning from people screaming at each other, which is kind of a stressful way to get woken up.

Kelsey: Yeah, really.

Laura: Then I had to wake up pretty early because I volunteer at my church sometimes. I had to be there at 7:30 in the morning on Sunday, so I got up for that and I just didn’t feel like eating. So I’m like whatever, I’ll just eat after church. I’ll do a little intermittent fasting, which is sometimes okay. It’s not always a problem.

But then when I was at church for whatever reason we have like a coffee table at our entry way or the lobby, or whatever, so I just got way more coffee than I should have because I was just, I don’t know, just drinking it and probably twice as much as I should have.

And then I guess doing the job that I do at my church, I don’t want to call it stressful, it’s not stressful. But I have to kind of be mentally engaged the whole time because I run the projector for the lyrics and the sermon and stuff. So you have to be paying attention the whole time.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Basically by the end of the everything I got home and was feeling physically really anxious. Then of course instead of realizing that okay Laura, obviously you should have not skipped breakfast, and you shouldn’t drink so much coffee. I couldn’t do anything about the sleep issue, but that could contribute to it.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Instead of realizing all the physical reasons that I was feeling that way, what happened…and I explain this to my clients about this a lot about anxiety, if you feel physical anxiety and you can’t necessarily reason yourself into why you feel that way, your brain will come up with reasons to make you understand why you’re feeling anxious.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Because I wasn’t really appropriately dealing with it, and just trying to ignore it, and just being like okay, it will go away, I ate lunch and it will go away. I just was feeling really, really, really stressed and having all these weird “what if” scenarios and random concerns and fears going through my head about the stuff that I’ve been stressed about. It just got to the point where I was like this is ridiculous. I can’t even function right now. I’m so nervous and there’s reason for me to feel this way.

So I decided, I’m like, you know what, I think I just need to relax and maybe take a nap. I literally like as soon as I got home, I had been on a walk with my dog and I got home and I was like forget this. I’m not doing any work. I’m not doing any chores. I’m just going to lay upstairs in bed. I laid down, put some music on, and I had the dog snuggling with me.

Kelsey: Aww.

Laura: And I just literally passed out. I was just so tired and I fell asleep really quickly. And I woke up feeling 100 times better. It was funny because it’s like in the moment I was feeling so anxious, I was really upset, I was really like even like on the verge of tears. I’m like why am I so stressed? This is ridiculous. It was amazing how I think I took a 90 minute nap or something. So it wasn’t crazy long, but it was definitely a longer nap. It just kind of made me realize that if I don’t get that rest that I need when I need it, it’s basically going to ruin my whole day.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Or possibly even my whole week. I mean I feel pretty good today because I slept a good amount last night, and had half caff coffee in moderation this morning, and I ate breakfast. It’s just funny because I feel like a lot of times people don’t prioritize rest.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And they feel guilty if they rest, and if they’re exhausted they’re just like whatever, I’m just going to push through. To be fair, I mean being single and childless, it’s a lot easier to take rest when you need it than if you have a family that is relying on you to function. But I think even when people have the opportunity to rest, a lot of time they don’t take it because they think it’s lazy.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: For whatever reason people don’t value rest, and naps, and stuff like that. Lately especially with all the stressful stuff going on, I’ve been napping so much. Even on my days that I work with clients, if I can squeeze in like a 20 minute power nap, I will literally set an alarm on my phone for like 25 minutes and just see if I can sleep in between clients.

Kelsey: Yeah. Well I mean it’s like a reset button. It makes such a big difference in your mood, your energy. It just really…I mean at least for me and I think for a lot of people, those short naps or just rest when you feel like you need it. I sort of see it…It’s not necessarily like a mind body activity, but to me it feels like it has almost the same sort of effect, and potentially a better effect obviously if you’re pretty tired than doing something like that instead.

Laura: Yeah. I mean if I’m feeling super tired to the point where I could fall asleep for a 20 minute nap, I definitely am not going to be functioning super well if I don’t actually take that nap. I’ve gotten to the point where especially lately knowing that I’m under more stress than usual, I’ve just really prioritized taking rests and even napping when necessary. I’m not going to say I feel amazing.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I still feel kind of tired and I’m like a little distracted my thoughts of things that are going on, but I feel so much better than if I had tried to push through yesterday and done work.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I was planning on getting back to some emails that I had yesterday and I was like no, I am not going on the computer, forget that, absolutely not.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Just being able to take rest when necessary and take it seriously, and something that I said on Instagram was the harder I work, the harder I need to rest also. That goes for exercise, that goes for my business, that goes for anything that I’m doing where if I’m pushing myself extra hard for whatever reason, that’s when rest is a bigger priority than if I’m more relaxed and don’t have as much stuff going on.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think that’s so true. It’s easily forgotten, especially in our society today. We just think about hard work as something that is really respected, and it is. I mean I agree. But with that hard work and energy that goes along with that hard work needs to come kind of equivalent rest and relaxation.

I think we don’t as a society respect the relaxation as much as we do the hard work. And that gets a lot of us into trouble when we feel guilty for taking rest when we need it, and pushing through when we really don’t have to and we have the ability to take that rest.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I think it’s just so important and it’s unfortunately very easily forgotten in our society.

Laura: Yeah. I mean we’re lucky we have jobs that if we want to go take a nap in the middle of the day, we can.

Kelsey:  Right.

Laura: And I know most people don’t have that kind of job, But I don’t know. Who knows? Maybe in the future, high power jobs that people work like 60 hours a week will incorporate naps into their day because it might help them be more productive.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It would definitely help me.

Kelsey: Well I mean companies like Google and all those tech companies, they sort of are starting to prioritize stuff like that, or just not working on work even sometimes when you are at work, like doing things that you enjoy. I think Google has some policy like that where their workers can work on their own projects like one day a week or something like that where they’re not always focused on the things that they have to do for Google, but they’re also doing things that really fulfill them as people as well. To me that is sort of like a bit of rest in its own way.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I think jobs like that wouldn’t be surprising probably to see somebody taking a short little power nap in their office, and I don’t think that would be too looked down upon in  situation like that.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: But hopefully we’ll get more companies that prioritize that kind of thing.

Laura: Yeah, well for now I’m going to be napping as often as possible. My couch is about 15 feet away from me right now. So if I need to, it’s there.

Kelsey: Perfect.

Laura: Well anyway, why don’t hear a word from our sponsor and then we’ll get into our question for the day.

Kelsey: Alright. So here is our question for today:

“Hi Laura and Kelsey, thank you for your wonderful podcast. My question is about genetic analysis like 23andMe. Just as someone can become orthorexic, I feel like many of us can become overly obsessive and anxious about our genetic mutations and the potential higher risk for conditions we find out about in the process. Where do you feel like the appropriate line to draw is when it comes to analyzing your genetic testing? How much do you think these SNPs actually determine our likelihood for certain conditions whether it be more immediate concern like miscarriage, blood clotting problems, allergies, or potential concerns down the line like cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc. Thanks.”

Laura: So just to define SNPs for you guys, that’s spelled SNP. That just stands for single nucleotide polymorphism. So essentially individual nucleotides on DNA that will affect the way that that DNA functions and how it creates the proteins that it’s meant to create. When we say SNP, that’s what that means.

This is an interesting question because for a while the 23andMe company wasn’t providing genetic analysis for this reason I think. The FDA decided that there wasn’t enough data or enough proof to support giving information about I guess likelihood of certain conditions using genetic information and they didn’t want to allow that to be part of the service because, I mean I would imagine a big part of it is because this concern over anxiety and fear about potentially genetic mutations.

Because to be honest, as much as our science is advancing on the topic of genetics, a lot of the stuff we have is mostly just correlative where certain diseases are more frequently seen in people with certain genetics. Now that’s not the case for all genes and there definitely are some genes that have much more strong evidence as far as what they put people at risk for.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But in general, I’d say most of the genome information that we have is more of a correlative evidence base as opposed to something where if you have this gene, you’re defiantly going to have a problem.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s not like the gene for your eye color, which you have a blue eye gene, you’re going to have blue eyes. A lot of times things like long term health issues like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, allergies, those kind of things, you’re just seeing an increased risk and that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have that problem.

Kelsey: Right. I think there’s a lot of blog posts, and books, and things that at this point about some of these genetic mutations, and like for the most part, Laura would you agree with this, that you kind of see it mostly about MTHFR at this point?

Laura: Mm hmm. I actually have one that I wrote about SNPs and B vitamins and all that stuff.

Kelsey: There you go. Yeah. That’s what we’re tending to see the most of now just because this is a really, really new topic in nutrition science. And we talked about last time how nutrition science in general is a very infant science at this point and this is even more infantile than nutrition science in general is. You can imagine that there’s not a whole lot that we know about this topic right now. But it’s a very interesting topic and I think that’s why it’s getting a lot of press and everything because there is this very big potential for it to be very useful down the road.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: But right now, at least in my opinion and how I tend to counsel my clients on this is that if they have some SNPs around the MTHFR gene, and that’s affecting their methylation, and their having symptoms of under methylation for example. Or if I have someone who’s had a couple miscarriages, we do this testing, we find out that she’s got some MTHFR mutations, then yes, I would recommend that she take some methylated B vitamins and we kind of see how that changes things in terms of the actual symptoms that this person is having.

But in terms of actually preventing future disease, I think it’s a really interesting concept. It’s not something that I would get overly obsessive about.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: You can do your best and if you do see that you have some of the MTHFR mutations, of course you could try some methylated B vitamins. I’m not sure whether you would really feel all that different because if you’re not having symptoms, it’s hard to tell if they’re making a difference for you or not. You can call it a day. Just take those B vitamins, and that’s going to help your methylation process work better, and hopefully that’s going to help prevent any disease.

But at the end of the day, anything that we learn about for preventing disease, we really can just do our best and it’s not worth stressing out about. Because like we talked about so many times before on our podcast and elsewhere, stress in and of itself is such a huge issue that really none of this stuff is worth causing that stress on your body because it’s probably going to be more problematic than not taking B vitamins for example.

Laura: Mm hmm. Yeah, I mean I don’t really think the research on genetic tendencies towards certain diseases is that strong right now anyway. So even if your 23andMe report says 1.8 times higher frequency of Alzheimer’s in your particular genome than someone else, that doesn’t really mean anything. I mean, yeah maybe it means you’re a little bit more likely to get Alzheimer’s. But the question is does that mean that you’re going from a 2% risk to a 3.6% risk, or something like that? Or is it that you’re going from a 50% risk to a 75% risk? A lot of those times those increased risk of certain chronic diseases, they don’t necessarily mean anything if you don’t know what the original risk level was.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I just feel like people tend to use that information in a way that leads them to start using unsupported diet and supplements recommendations. Things like for example with Alzheimer’s, if someone says oh well I have a 2 times higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s than the average person, I better go on a ketogenic diet to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Regardless of whether or not they actually have any problems that need a ketogenic diet,or the other potential downsides of following a ketogenic diet for 20 years or something, it’s just I don’t really see the evidence right now being so strong that people can make significant diet and lifestyle changes that would be specifically based on the 23andMe results.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I mean I think we generally have ideas about what diet and lifestyle recommendations are appropriate for most people to be healthy. And certainly if you see that you have a higher risk of cancer for example, maybe be extra cautious about avoiding burnt red meat products, and cigarettes, and lots of alcohol, and things that we know cause cancer or at least increase the risk of cancer. Maybe deal with your circadian rhythms more, maybe eat lots of fruits and vegetables. So there are some basic things that you can do, although I would argue that pretty much anyone following those conditions would be benefitting.

But it’s just, I don’t know. I just get a little worried when people think that they can take data from a 23AndMe test, especially about their risk of disease, and then make significant changes to their diet, and lifestyle, and supplement use that would actually really make a difference at least in a way that we’re confident about.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Because I don’t really believe that we know enough to make these recommendations in a way that’s like I said, black and white.

Kelsey: Right. Now if it’s causing someone who is currently on a standard American diet, really has an unhealthy lifestyle, and that sort of gives them a little kick in the pants to say, hey, maybe clean up your diet, maybe start doing some exercise. I’m all for that. But I do think that if you’re someone who is already eating a very healthy diet, you’re exercising, you’re really cutting down on all these risk factors like Laura just said that we know about, then there’s really no evidence at this point to go beyond that.

A lot of times especially if you’re prone to anxiety about health conditions and things like that, it probably can cause more harm than good I would think for a lot of people. Sometimes I actually will tell people if… I think I did this recently to someone who was considering the 23andMe test, but she was already taking a methylated B complex, and she expressed that there might be some anxiety about the results when she got them back. And I said, you know what? I think you should probably just skip it because I don’t think we would do anything more than you’re already doing because you’re eating a healthy diet, you’re exercising appropriately, we are doing suppments that make sense for you personally based on what I heard from this person. Why give yourself more anxiety just from taking this test than you need?

Laura: Right. And like you said, if it’s not going to change the treatment protocol or the changes that she’s making, then what would be the benefit to having that information?

Kelsey: Exactly. No benefit other than stressing you out.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I feel like people tend to get so…and it’s funny that I’m saying people tend to get so worried about the future after I’ve been struggling with that the last couple weeks. But when it comes to health issues, worrying about what’s going to happen 20 years down the road more than just thinking okay, I should probably try to eat well, and exercise, and sleep.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And do the things we know are pretty much universally good for people. There’s all this anxiety that comes from thinking this far down the road for things like cancer, Alzheimer’s that kind of stuff. And I mean honestly, we don’t even know if you’re going to make it to that point. I mean you can get hit by a truck in a year and not even make it to the point of getting Alzheimer’s.

I’m not trying to be morbid or anything, but I think people really need to start looking at the here and now and saying, okay, do I feel good? Are most of my symptoms of whatever health conditions under control? Do I know generally what kind of diet and lifestyle I should be following for optimal health? How is my energy? How am I sleeping? You can figure out right now how you feel. You don’t need a test to tell you if you have symptoms, or if you have really bad energy, or something like that.

Working on improving your current health and quality of life, and not worrying so much about down the road because again, we don’t know if you’re ever even going to get to the point where that would be a problem. And even if you get to that age, there’s no guarantee just because you have a 2 times higher risk of something that you’re going to get it.

Kelsey: Right. And there’s no guarantee that if you do some wild diet or take all these supplements for your entire life that that’s necessarily going to prevent it either.

Laura: Right. It could potentially make absolutely no difference.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Then you’re just wasting time and money. It could potentially cause harm not to that condition, but like I said before, if somebody is worried about getting Alzheimer’s so they go on a ketogenic diet, that could cause problems for things that they didn’t even think about like their gut heatlh.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Or their energy, or their athletic performance. So things like that where you’re trying to prevent something that you don’t even know if what you’re doing might or might not be affecting your risk.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: And you could actually be causing be causing problems right now trying to prevent that risk in the future. I’ve seen this happen with a lot a people. I think with orthorexia a lot of times this is one of things that’s at the root of orthorexia is this fear of the future of what’s going to happen down the road. Yeah, there’s a lot of people that have orhorexia that it’s based poor body image, or I guess trying to find their self-worth in their diet. But a lot of the people I work with that have this orthorexic tendency, it’s really based on the fact that oh they had a parent that died from cancer, or a sibling that had some kind of health issue that they’re trying to avoid.

And I’m not saying don’t think about it at all, but seriously, the amount of stuff that we can do right now to guarantee that you won’t get a disease in 20-30 years, we just don’t have the information that we need to do that. It’s kind of for a lot of things it’s an exercise in futility, and honestly the stuff that makes people feel the best in general ends up being somewhat preventative for these conditions.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: So I think following how you feel right now and making sure that optimizing your current state of health as being the priority and not being so concerned about things down the line, that’s going to be a better strategy than potentially changing something that would make you feel either no different or worse right now just to prevent something from happening in the future.

Kelsey: Yeah. Like you said, I mean again, not to be morbid, but we can be hit by a car tomorrow and when you think that way it does just make you realize how important it is to be present and grateful for what you have today and really enjoy life to its fullest every day that you can.

So I really do try to impart that into my clients’ brains because it’s really easy to get caught up in the future all the time, especially if you tend to be someone who gets a little bit anxious about this stuff in general. Those are the clients that I hear this coming through in pretty much everything they’re saying to me because whatever they are asking me if they should do, it’s always, always focused on many, many years down the line. It’s not that often that they’re worried about something that’s going on today.

I really try to make sure that we focus on the symptoms that they’re actually having because like we’ve been talking about, it’s just not worth trying to do all these crazy things to prevent something that we don’t even know it’s going to work for and oftentimes doing those things causes anxiety in and of itself. Even if it did help, it’s also causing anxiety for many of these people, so it’s sort of a tradeoff. It equals out essentially. Like you’re not helping even if it did help that condition, if that makes sense.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. This kind of could go for a lot of different types of testing. But especially with these genetic tests, ultimately the thing that you have to ask yourself before buying a test like this is how is this going to improve my situation?

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Like you said earlier, if you have client that’s had a couple of miscarriages and they’re trying to figure out what might be going on, this might be something that’s helpful for figuring out, okay maybe I need to take a different type of B complex.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Maybe there’s certain nutrients that have to be extra careful about. But for the average person, I don’t really find that these tests are that helpful.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: The article that I wrote about the methylation, the MTHFR stuff, and the B complex type of thing, is more about if you have reactions to certain types of B vitamins. And if you feel poorly when you take them, getting your 23andMe results can potentially explain why that is and give you ideas about how to supplement in a way that’s not going to make you feel worse.

It’s funny because I’ll get a lot of comments on there and people actually will contact me about that article and say I need help figuring out my 23andMe results and doing things the right way. I mean I can definitely use those as part of the recommendations, but that’s not really going to be something that is driving the decisions that I make when I work with a client.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I mean, yeah I’ll look at it and if I see, like for example, if someone has both COMT mutations and that’s their main issue, then yeah, we’ll make sure that the B vitamins that they’re taking or that they’re exposed to in their diet or their supplements aren’t ones that could potentially exacerbate the symptoms that come the COMT mutation. But other than that, I think people over estimate how much information you really get from these tests and right now I just don’t really feel like there’s a huge source of data or support to use these tests as a way to make some major changes.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: And there are certain things like for example, if you’re a slow caffeine metabolizer. I mean to be honest if you are a slow caffeine metabolizer…

Kelsey: You would know.

Laura: Yeah exactly, you’re going to know pretty much immediately if that’s a problem for you. I know for me, that came up on my 23andMe test. I did mine like several years ago as my family did it so I just jumped on with that. But it’s not like I needed that test to tell me that too much caffeine messes me up. Clearly after this weekend I realized, okay, that was too much caffeine.

So again, it’s easy to put too much stock in these recommendations when a lot of times you can figure this stuff out on your own if you’re paying attention to how you feel after you eat, or drink, or take a supplement.

Kelsey: Yeah, and I think you have to ask yourself this question for any lab test that you’re doing, which is this going to change what I’m doing in a way that’s actually going to be meaningful? I’m a big fan of lab tests. I use them a lot in my practice and I think there are a lot of them that can be incredibly useful. This just happens to not be one of them for a lot of people.

Like we said, there’s definitely situations where it’s useful, or if you already have it I’m going to look at it and can at least help inform what I might recommend to you. But it’s typically not something that I’m recommending that someone has to get outside of a woman whose has a lot of miscarriages. That to me is an immediate thought if I hear that. But other than that, it’s really not something I think of all that often.

Laura: Yeah. I don’t know. There may be a handful of clients that you and I would recommend getting this test done, but it’s not often.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Unless somebody is struggling with something that they haven’t been able to figure out using other methods, then it’s not necessarily going to come in handy for that many people.

Kelsey: Exactly.

Laura: There’s pretty much no test that I would say that every single person has to get done.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I mean other than basic checkup labs, that kind of thing. Even the DUTCH adrenal hormone test, even though that’s one I use a lot, it’s probably more because of the kind of clients that I get as opposed to thinking that that test should be done for everybody.

So yeah, I mean this is going to be a theme in a lot of our podcasts where we’re trying to make sure people are doing the basic things that they need to do to maintain their health, and make sure that their not avoiding certain foods for no reason, and getting in the foods that they should be generally eating for good health with the understanding that not everyone is going to have the same diet.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But really try to minimize this fear and anxiety approach to health and get people to the point where they feel pretty good about what they’re doing, and maybe checking in every now and then to make sure that they’re still feeling well, and that they’re diet and lifestyle is still working for them. But ultimately the goal is to get you guys focusing on other things and not being so obsessed with your health that it’s the only thing you’re ever thinking about.

Kelsey: Right. I mean ideally I want my clients to not be thinking about health because that means that if they’re feeling good, there’s nothing that they’re worried about, and hey that’s that goal here. I don’t want you to have to think about that stuff all the time. Once you start feeling better and you realize that the food you’re eating is really working for you, it’s just becomes second nature and it’s not something you have to actively think about a lot of the time.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: That’s really the goal. That’s what I want people to feel like, that this is no big deal, and it’s not taking all this effort and stress eat this certain way or anything like that. They just know, hey this is working for me, it’s easy for me to do, I feel great, what’s there to worry about?

Laura: Right. There’s that term for the population called the “worried well,” which are people that do feel well, but they’re so worried about staying well or being well in the future that they end up being just as stressed out as someone who’s sick.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t know. I feel like the likelihood that someone will regret not taking some supplement or doing some extreme diet if they’re at the end of their life, versus regretting spending too much time focusing on their health, I think the risk of regretting the time you spent searching the internet genetic information for certain health conditions, that’s going to be something you don’t feel as good about when you’re at the end of your life as opposed to saying oh if I’d only been taking turmeric as a supplement then I wouldn’t have this health issue at age 70 or something.

Kelsey: Right, exactly. Spend time with your family and friends, enjoy your food, enjoy your life, rest, relax. That’s what all of this comes down to and being worried about the future is something that like you said, Laura, is often exercise in futility.

Laura: Well Kelsey, if you’re mic wasn’t on a stand you could a mic drop after that.

Kelsey: Boom.

Laura: Well, anyway, I think that answers that question. Like we said earlier, we’re trying to keep our podcast short and sweet and to the point as much as possible. So if you guys do have a question about this topic or need some further clarification, feel free to write a comment in the comment section below this post on TheAncestralRDs.com.

And if you want to submit a question unrelated to this topic, feel free to go to the contact tab at the top of the page. But, anyway, thanks for joining us this week guys. We’re always happy to have you here and we will look forward to seeing you here next week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.


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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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